|Paul di Resta
|10*, 10**, 10, 9, 7
*as Midland **as Spyker
Force India finished a highest-ever seventh in the world championship last year, just a point behind sixth-placed Williams.
But before the season was over there were signs their form was beginning to dip.
Towards the end of 2010 they were struggling to get both cars into Q2. They managed just a single points finish from the last four races.
Earlier in the year the team were hit by a double-whammy of departures from their technical department: first James Key left to join Sauber then Mark Smith, who inherited his workload, switched to Lotus.
There are signs team have hit a peak and are now on the other side of the slope. But they aren’t going down without a fight.
The VJM04, conceived by new technical director Andrew Green, is one of only two cars on the grid to adopt the ‘blade’ roll-hoop design of the 2010 Mercedes.
It retains the competitive and reliable McLaren drivetrain and this year the similar well-proven Mercedes Kinetic Energy Recovery System has been added.
The team have also tweaked their driver line-up, dropping Vitantonio Liuzzi – who had a generally poor 2010 – and replacing him with Paul di Resta.
It’s a sad reflection of the state of motor racing that after winning the F3 Euroseries in 2006 di Resta was unable to find the support to continue in single-seaters and had to switch to the DTM instead.
The DTM may be a competitive series with high-tech cars but as a feeder series to F1 it pales in comparison to GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5.
It races at few F1 venues and only offers a dozen or so opportunities to race per year. The last drivers to graduate from the DTM to F1 were Christijan Albers and Markus Winkelhock – and they didn’t last long.
But in another sense Di Resta is at a slight advantage compared to some of his fellow 2011 rookies in that he participated in eight practice sessions last year. Although the mileage was not that great it gave him an introduction to several new circuits.
Nico Hulkenberg steps into the role of third driver formerly occupied by di Resta. That’s an interesting proposition in itself because Hulkenberg had a promising debut season with Williams last year including, of course, that pole position.
There’s nothing like having a promising and hungry young driver in the third driver spot to keep the pressure on the drivers in the race seats. Hulkenberg is too good to be left on the sidelines for long and everyone knows it.
The team didn’t run VJM04 until the second test. With teams who finished behind them last year such as Toro Rosso and Sauber attracting attention with some quick times, Force India could have more of a fight on their hands this year.
The team expect to perform even better then they did in 2010, targeting sixth place in the championship and podium finishes.
However well they do, they can expect a lot of support when the teams head to the first ever Indian Grand Prix in October.
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